BLACKFOOT, Idaho – Recent rainy weather and warming spring temperatures melting a record-level snowpack in upper Snake River Basin have caused unusually high flows in the river. Those flows have caused damage to several flood-protection structures that were built to help protect the City of Blackfoot from seasonal flooding.
A team of trained flood-fight specialists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District, deployed May 24 to support Bingham County’s flood preparation efforts. They provide technical, material or direct assistance in response to requests from state and county emergency management officials.
Since arrival, the Corps team has completed protective repairs along three sections of the river just downstream of the City of Blackfoot.
Most recent flood-fight efforts there focused on adding between 1-1/2 to 2 feet of fill material about 2,500 feet long to the top of a protective berm located along the river near Thomas Road in the 600-700 block area where the river was within six inches of the top of the berm. The Corps contracted with Gale Lim Construction LLC to do the work and with Mickelsen Construction Inc. to provide the material. Both businesses are located in Blackfoot.
“We’re about 99 percent done – just a little leveling of the material and replacing the fence left to do,” said Jon Petersen, the Corps’ team leader in Bingham County, via telephone this morning. “We’re continuing to monitor the shoreline and bridges, looking for any areas that appear to require repairs or reinforcement.”
Recent reports from Bingham County indicate there will be plenty for the Corps team to keep an eye on. County emergency management officials report conditions are threatening county levees and flood control structures along the Bingham County stretch of Snake River. Several roads and bridges on or near the Snake River from Shelley to Tilden Bridge are being monitored for potential flood damage. The River Road south of Blackfoot upstream from Tilden Bridge flooded over but was mitigated by the county. Archery Range Road near Rose Overpass is submerged and impassable. Wolverine Road east of Blackfoot washed out due to small stream flooding last week. However, county crews replaced a culvert and temporarily repaired the road. Local officials estimate 150 homes county-wide are threatened but currently protected by sandbagging and temporary berm construction. One resident evacuated in the Rose area. Protective sandbagging continues in the Shelley, Firth, Thomas and Riverton areas of the county. Some basements are experiencing ground water issues, according to county reports.
Since the first week of May, the District has deployed a total of 17 trained flood-response specialists and delivered a total of 602,000 sandbags to counties and cities in the upper Snake River areas of Idaho and Wyoming. The Corps has also provided three Crisafulli pumps, a PTO-powered 'trailer pump', to support flood-fight efforts in Jefferson County, and one additional pump to help Bear Lake County flood-fighters. The Corps also provided 50 rolls of plastic sheeting to Jefferson County and 35 rolls to Bingham County to help protect flood structures from being washed away by flood-level river flows.
The National Weather Service issued an official Flood Warning on June 6 for areas of Southeastern Idaho, including Bingham County. The NWS’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service website for the “Snake River at Blackfoot” gauge http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=pih&gage=snai1&view=1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1" provides , warnings, forecasts and river flow information for that location. Residents of flood-prone areas are encouraged to keep informed of changing river and weather conditions on the National Weather Service website and by tuning in to local radio and television news stations.
Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security http://www.bhs.idaho.gov encourages Idaho residents to be prepared to respond to localized flooding. Individuals are encouraged to contact local emergency management agencies to ensure they understand how to receive updates and information specific to their location. Most county emergency management departments in Idaho have flood-preparedness information on their websites. Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security has an alert system that, based on zip code, will send alerts to whatever device residents choose – sign up at https://mystateusa.com/alertSignup.aspx?region=670.
Early forecasts indicate that this will be one of the top five years on record. Snake River Basin water volumes are forecasted to be similar to 1997.
Corps water management officials continue coordinating with other federal and non-federal dam managers to make adjustments in river system operations that will best accommodate the increased run-off inflows. Reservoirs are being drafted ahead of anticipated heavy spring runoff. The Corps works closely with other agencies and local government entities to notify the public as early as possible when changes to flows are necessary.
The Corps is authorized to work with states, counties and other public entities to provide necessary resources and information. The Corps does not have authority to provide disaster assistance directly to individuals. The organization will continue to carefully watch the evolving situation and respond, when requested, with whatever assistance is authorized, appropriate and available.
The first responsibility for protecting homes and property from flood damage rests with the individual. Local governments and agencies, such as flood control districts, may share in this responsibility, and together form a community's first line of defense in preventing flood damages.
Occasionally, however, local resources are not able to control or contain a flood emergency situation. The Corps’ flood disaster assistance program is intended to supplement and assist local governments, institutions and special-purpose districts when more help is needed.
The Walla Walla District is prepared to assist states and municipalities with flood-management support, if requested, said Jeff Stidham, Walla Walla District emergency management specialist. That assistance could include technical expertise, supplies and materials, equipment or contracts for emergency flood-fighting work.
“We're watching rivers and streams throughout the Walla Walla District and staying in touch with local emergency officials so, if requested to, we can plan, prepare or act,” said Stidham. “Our top priority is the public’s safety, so we’re encouraging folks in low-lying parts of flood-prone areas stayed tuned to information and advisories provided by the National Weather Service or their local emergency-service agencies and be ready to take action according to local flood response plans.”
State and local agencies needing disaster assistance from the Corps should contact the Walla Walla District Emergency Management Office at (509) 527-7146, or (509) 380-4538.
For more information about Emergency Management Assistance, check out the District’s Web site at www.nww.usace.army.mil/html/offices/op/em/flodasst.htm or call (509) 527-7145.
For Corps updates and photos of flood-fight efforts in Idaho and Wyoming, visit our Facebook site www.facebook.com/WallaWallaUSACE.